Early Tom Petty homesteaders at the New Orleans Jazz Fest’s Acura Stage on Saturday heard musical references from the New Orleans pop band Empress Hotel that reside in a lot of CD collections of a certain vintage. Talking Heads (slinky rhythms, full-throated singing), Prince (an engineered-noise guitar solo) and even Pink Floyd (a dreamy organ under lyric-less background vocals) all checked in during the set.
The Times-PicayuneEmpress Hotel opens the Acura Stage on Saturday at New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Then checked out, as the band fused a unique, agreeable, contemporary ensemble sound atop driving beats. If tempos sometimes didn’t immediately lock down, chalk it up to the massive venue, adrenaline, nerves.
Related: Lead vocalist Micah Mckee twice announced that this was the group’s first Jazz Fest show.
You never would’ve otherwise known.
For this set, the band’s core of brothers Ryan and Eric Rogers, (guitar and drums, respectively), Jack Clark (keyboards) and Mckee, were augmented by Jonny Campos (bass), Leo Dejesus (percussion and keys) and Julie Odell (vocals).
Song endings and song-to-song transitions were tight, tricky unison vocals were well-executed, the band’s compositions were challenging, unpredictable, a cool soundtrack for a Jazz Fest eye-opener.
As the set ended, McKee said, “We’ll see you around.”
Sounded right to me.
A Park the Van Records act that hadn’t played a venue larger than a local club before, Empress Hotel proved totally Acura-worthy.